With a record six Emmy awards for playing the same role—and record-tying eight acting Emmys overall—Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been the funniest woman on TV for more than 30 years. But there is one man who perhaps made her laugh harder than anyone else.
The man was Jerry Stiller, who died over the weekend at the age of 92, and despite a comedy career that started on The Ed Sullivan Show was perhaps most famous for playing Frank Costanza on Seinfeld.
From “a Festivus for the rest of us” to “Serenity now!,” Stiller had plenty of hilarious moments on screen over the show’s nine seasons. But for true Seinfeld fans, his all-time funniest scene is on the blooper reel.
It’s near the end of the season eight episode “The Little Kicks,” in which Louis-Dreyfus’ Elaine is revealed to be the world’s worst dancer. Elaine and Frank come face-to-face at the police station where Jason Alexander’s George Costanza has been arrested after trying to impress a woman with his “bad boy” scheme of bootlegging movies.
“Who put you up to this? Was it her?” Frank asks George, blaming Elaine for the idea. “My George isn’t clever enough to hatch a scheme like this.” The line that makes both Louis-Dreyfus and Alexander break comes after Elaine says, “You got that right.”
“What the hell does that mean?” Frank asks her, over and over again, as she tries to keep it together. She really can’t handle it when he adds, “You’re saying you want a piece of me?”
Just one week before Stiller passed, that moment came up during an Instagram Live conversation between Louis-Dreyfus and Alexander to raise money for Direct Relief’s COVID-19 fund. The actress started to crack up just thinking about the scene. “How much fun was that?” she asked.
“He did that line in the first take, ‘You want a piece of me,’ and you did exactly what you’re doing now,” Alexander said as Louis-Dreyfus started to lose it again. “And I have to tell you, when you go, very few people have the stamina to not go with you. There’s something about your laugh that is just really infectious.”
After Alexander noted that he actually falls off the bench he was sitting on at some point during their attempt to nail the scene, Louis-Dreyfus added, “You were dying laughing, so hard.”
She also revealed that when Stiller would do his signature “look to the sky” gesture, it was because he was trying to remember his lines. As Alexander put it, a lot of Frank Costanza’s “internal rage” actually came from a lack of confidence on Stiller’s part to get the language right. His attempt to get out the words “Del Boca Vista” is another legendary example.
In Louis-Dreyfus’ memory, Jerry Seinfeld actually brought the “You want a piece of me” clip with him onto a late-night show shortly after the episode aired, “to talk about what a professional organization he was running.”
“It’s fun to watch the bloopers, I have to say,” Louis-Dreyfus added. “I don’t watch the episodes themselves very much, but watching the bloopers really takes me back to the fun that we had.”
On Monday afternoon, she shared the video on her Twitter account with the message, “The truth is that this happened all the time with Jerry Stiller. He was so funny and such a dear human being. We loved him. RIP Jerry Stiller.”
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